What to know about health insurance when you're unemployed

In just a couple of months, the world has been shocked by the deadly Coronavirus pandemic. With the rise in unemployment, and the uncertainty that lingers around quarantine, there have been over 22 million cases of unemployment in America.

Despite there being some resources to financially help those who are now unemployed, little to no resources have been offered to help those who lost health insurance in conjunction with losing their jobs.

Towards the end of 2019, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study and discovered a majority of the population relied on their insurance through a group health insurance plan, meaning that they received their insurance through an employer.

Now, in the middle of a deadly pandemic and major economic recession, many Americans have no insurance. Thankfully there are resources for those who are unemployed to turn to.

Looking for state insurance

State insurance is one of the best resources for immediate insurance coverage. While some states maintain their own markets, the majority of the states rely on the federal marketplace for their health insurance. These insurance plans tend to have strict limits and qualifications. One exception which can allow you to qualify for a special enrollment period is enduring a life-changing event. An example of this would be losing your employer or student sponsored health insurance; you have between 30-60 days to use your special enrollment status and sign up for state insurance. You may enroll during the open enrollment period, but that date varies from state to state and typically the earliest time begins in November.

Due to Covid-19 11 states have declared an emergency period, keeping enrollment open until the quarantine is lifted. It is recommended to enroll as soon as possible.

Applying for medicaid

Medicaid, a federal insurance program, offers insurance to low income applicants, who would not be able to afford insurance otherwise. Medicaid is highly favored and considered one of the best insurance plans that provide favorable premium and very low co-pays. While Medicaid is federally funded, some states can freely decide how to run their state's program.

Many states allow for you to apply for Medicaid through the state health insurance market.

To see if you qualify for Medicaid, your income and medical history will be assessed, and it is imperative that you answer the application questions as accurately as possible. If your state does not have a health insurance marketplace, apply through a Medicaid agency.

Consolidated omnibus budget reconciliation act (COBRA)

COBRA was established in the 1980s to help those who lost their group health benefits and were looking for jobs to apply for a temporary insurance plan. Those who lost their previous insurance because they were laid off; left their job; had hours cut; or lost insurance because of a family separation qualify for COBRA. While COBRA itself is not an insurance plan, it allows you to continue living, temporarily, as though you are still insured. COBRA has no set amount of time you can use it for, rather it is based on circumstance. While you may receive the same benefits as your old insurance, the cost might not be the same. With COBRA, you run the risk of paying a drastically higher premium and/or copay. COBRA is not a permanent solution, but a good option to help you get back on your feet.

Private health insurance 

Private health insurance is a good option for those who do not want public insurance. While private insurance is more expensive, it offers a better coverage plan and is not considered a good option if you are only looking for a temporary coverage plan.


Do not confuse medicare with Medicaid. Medicare is a specialized program eligible to those 65 and older or applicants who receive disability. Medicare is divided into four parts: the first two parts cover hospital and medical costs and the third part is a private plan.

healthcare.gov | NY Times | CNBC | ehealthinsurance.com